Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why We Do Good Things

I went to a gathering of drunks and a science discussion broke out.

You may not believe it but when my usual gaggle of rednecks, hillbillies and ne'er do wells gather the talk frequently turns to current events, politics and even occasionally science. Recently I brought up a personal favorite topic, evolution. I was grilled on the usual difficult questions. How does evolution explain such very human needs as altruism, love and generosity? I did my best to answer, secretly knowing that certain scientists were working on the answers I didn't have. Well, now maybe they do.

"Perhaps altruism did not grow out of a warm-glow feeling of doing good for others, but out of the simple recognition that the thing over there is a person that has intentions and goals. And therefore, I might want to treat them like I might want them to treat myself," explained study author Scott Huettel, an associate professor of psychology at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C.

The beauty of science is it doesn't destroy mystery. It enhances it.

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